Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why I Started a Publishing House, by Cecilia Brainard


Aside from being a writer, I recently embraced the role of publisher of PALH or Philippine American Literary House, a press that publishes high quality fiction and creative non-fiction by Filipino Americans and other Filipinos. PALH is a member of PAPC (Philippine American Publishers Consortium).

PALH is an offshoot of the award-winning Filipina American writers group, PAWWA, which provided support to writers and artists as well as provide community service. One of the issues that PAWWA tried to address was the lack of Filipino and Filipino American books in the US. Co-founders Susan Montepio and I  started PALH to sell and publish Filipino/Fil-Am books. Eventually, PAWWA dissolved but PALH remained and became my exclusive business.

Since it's inception, PALH published three books which received favorable reviews: Journey of 100 Years: Reflections on the Centennial of Philippine Independence, and two young adult anthologies, Growing Up Filipino I and Growing Up Filipino II.

Recently I revived the publishing efforts of PALH after realizing that the publishing industry has become very difficult for writers coming from diverse cultures. To quote Stuart Bernstein in his 2013 letter to the Sunday Review, The New York Times:  "Bookselling is an industry suffering through the tribulations of digital transformation as e-books and Amazon have upended longstanding business models and put new emphasis on price."

Put simply, publishers are more keen on making a buck and focus on publishing commercial books. Further, most publishers, even small presses, now consider only agented submissions. This means that there are now gatekeepers who are also out to make a buck and who determine what gets published or not.  This situation makes it extremely difficult for non-commercial writers (literary writers and poets, among others) to get their work published.

Since I know enough about publishing, I decided to startup PALH as my contribution to my Filipino American community.

Remedios Lopez Cuenco, far right

My own indie-effort as publisher was influenced by my great-grandmother, Remedios Lopez Cuenco, who lived in Cebu, Philippines during the early 1900s. She was the first woman publisher in the Philippines. Widowed, she inherited her husband's press, the Imprenta Rosario. In fact, my third novel, The Newspaper Widow, uses her as a model and allowed me to reflect on her struggles as a publisher. I imagined she wanted to continue her husband's work of giving voice to Filipinos during a time when the Philippines was defining itself. I started to think of how appalling it is that many Filipino Americans have to turn to Philippine publishers or self-publish in order to get their works published. I also realized that it was folly to wait for others to solve this problem, that it was up to us, Filipinos in America, to address our own problems. I was thus inspired to revive PALH.

To extend the reach of PALH's titles, I arranged to collaborate with my friend, Marily Orosa, the owner/publisher of the award-winning Studio 5 Designs in the Philippines. What this means is that most PALH titles will be available in the US and in the Philippines, which is a really good deal for PALH's authors.

PALH's first book projects are by esteemed writer, Linda Ty-Casper (A River, One Woman Deep: Short Stories and a Novella) and Bay Area writer, Veronica Montes (collected short stories), both expected to be released in early 2017.

I know that PALH will primarily be a non-profit effort but I'm looking forward to this challenge. I hope that PALH's publications will contribute even in a small way to Filipino and Filipino American literature.

Read also
To Achieve Diversity in Publishing, a Difficult Dialogue Beats Silence
Sunday Dialogue: Tumult in the Book World
How My Great Grandmother Remedios Lopez Cuenco Died
Linda Ty-Casper's novels in E-Format
Tags: Philippines, Filipino, publishers, publishing, books, literature, writers, Filipino American, PALH, PAPC

This is all for now,

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